Lake Zurich Middle School South eighth-grader Matt Pereira finished first running two miles in 10 minutes and 28 seconds at the Boys 3A State Cross Country Meet held in Bloomington-Normal on Saturday.
Coach Matt Marston stressed that the first-place finish was a huge achievement. He said it looked as if Pereira was going to take second.
And this was the State Meet – these were the best runners from throughout all of Illinois. Just qualifying for the meet is a big achievement and worthy of praise. However, Matthew didn’t finish second – in the last 200 meters, Matthew had picked up the pace and erased that 15 foot lead; he moved from second into first place. And that’s where finished… first with a two-mile time of 10 minutes and 28 seconds,” recalled Marston.
Matt's parents are Laurie and Sergio Pereira. Here is a short Q&A with Matt Pereira:
When and how did you get interested in running?
My mom's high school coach, Susan Stevens, visits us a lot from California and when I was around 3 she realized I needed a way to burn energy in the winter, so she would take me and my 1-year-old sister, Danielle, to the basement and have us run. Then as we got older, she would time us racing around the perimeter of the house with her stopwatch.
In California, she took us to the track where she coached and timed us. I would really look forward to her visits and her timing us. Her encouragement led me to join cross country in middle school. She is the first person I call after each meet to tell her about it and she still encourages me and gives me advice. The ability to challenge myself, and the sense of achievement I get from reaching goals is what I really like.
Was the 1st place finish a surprise?
I certainly didn't expect it throughout the race given that I was around 6 seconds behind the whole time. I only realized at the last part that I had a chance of winning. I had learned at conference to never give up until the end when Shane Williamson of Hawthorn South pulled ahead of me literally on the finish line and beat me.
Do you plan to pursue cross country in high school?
Yes. The cross country camp I attended last summer was run by the high school coach, Coach Hanson. It was great. Coach Hanson really inspired me and really made me realize how much harder I had to work to achieve my goals. He tells us that we shouldn't miss a day of running and I haven't since June 12th. He gave us a specific training plan that I have continued along with my middle school team training. The people I met from the high school and from my team at Middle School South and from Middle School North are really nice and supportive of each other and I am really looking forward to the high school team.